Of all the interesting temples in the Angkor area, Ta Phrom is the coolest. Known for the giant trees that have grown out of the stone ruins, it’s probably one of the most photographed as well. It was built by the prolific Khmer king Jayavarman VII as a Buddhist monastery and university. Since it has been largely left as it was found, with the trees intact, it really does feel like a newly discovered ruins.
At its peak, 80,000 people lived in and around the temple. When we visited, there were just a handful of tourists, lost and wandering around in awe. Because of its ‘natural’ state, there were upturned blocks of stone and protruding tree roots to trip you up. It also kept many tourists out of the maze-like central enclosures. At one point we couldn’t find our way out. But I wouldn’t have minded staying there all day, among the doorways opening into nowhere, and the trees growing high into nothingness.